This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Besides students and teachers, another group of school employees are getting sick with COVID: bus staff.
At least six Colorado school districts have reported outbreaks of COVID among transportation employees, and some of the outbreaks are larger than those reported in most schools. While the trend hasn’t prompted a change of safety guidelines, it complicates the challenge of providing busing for students learning in person.
One of the larger outbreaks affected employees at a bus terminal for Jeffco Public Schools. The coronavirus sickened 12 employees, according to state records, although local public health officials put the number at seven. Jeffco is the state’s second-largest school district and continues to offer in-person learning even as many neighboring districts have moved most students online.
Jeffco school district officials refused to answer questions about the cases, or service interruptions, other than to say that that bus service in some areas was cancelled this year “for a brief period.” The district also said in an emailed statement that there have been “a few instances where non-driver transportation staff, who have the qualified licenses and training, have had to pick up bus routes here and there, including the executive director of the department.”
Jeffco bus driver Wally Maistryk, president of the Jefferson County Transportation Association, said the lack of clarity on the cases still has bus staff on edge.
“We’re pretty nervous about this stuff,” Maistryk said.
In Montrose, school bus service was completely cancelled for three days after two transportation staff members tested positive, prompting the contract transportation company to require all bus staff to get tested before returning to work. The district put students who could not get to schools without the bus on remote learning during those days.
In the Brighton-based 27J school district, an outbreak with four confirmed cases and an additional four possible cases have not caused service interruptions as other drivers picked up the extra routes.